A Special HCWA Summer School for Citizens

A unique type of summer school was in session recently at the Henry County Water Authority (HCWA), as the utility hosted its first Citizen Academy last month for 13 individuals who were eager to learn more about the water industry and their water utility.

The 2022 HCWA Citizen Academy participants took part in three classes covering topics that included an introduction to the HCWA water system, from water supply to treatment and distribution; the HCWA wastewater system, from collection and conveyance to treatment; as well as insights about the HCWA administration, field operations, capital projects and more. 

In addition, the Citizen Academy participants learned valuable lessons in water conservation, proper disposal of fats, oils, and grease (FOG), watershed protection, environmental stewardship, and additional lessons in water/wastewater public education.

Since water is one of the community’s most precious natural resources, HCWA officials saw the Citizen Academy as an opportunity to teach the public how to protect, provide and preserve it!

“We had a great first Citizen Academy, and it was so refreshing to have our participants really take an interest in what we do, while showing such appreciation for our work as water professionals,” says Lindsey Sanders, HCWA Environmental Compliance Coordinator, who helped organize the Academy’s curricula and activities. “These citizens were very enthusiastic and attentive, and they were an awesome group to work with.”

To graduate from the inaugural 2022 class of the HCWA Citizen Academy, participants competed three evening classes, with dinner provided, in addition to taking two private tours of both the Tussahaw Water Treatment Plant and the Walnut Creek Water Reclamation Facility. The third and final tour featured a visit to the Cubihatcha Outdoor Education Center in Locust Grove, which included a “floating classroom” boat trip around the Long Branch Reservoir for an up-close look at the Authority’s water supply and critically important community assets. 

For their time and studious participation, graduates of the 2022 HCWA Citizen Academy received a class T-Shirt to commemorate their completion of the inaugural event, as well as a free Fishing Permit at HCWA Reservoirs for one year, HCWA swag, and some helpful water conservation and FOG prevention items.

According to Authority officials, the goal of the HCWA Citizen Academy is for local citizens to learn where their water comes from, how the HCWA operates, and why it’s important for them to become advocates for water conservation and stewardship.

HCWA General Manager Tony Carnell notes that he and members of his staff came up with the idea of hosting a Citizen Academy after participating in a similar event put on by the Henry County Fire Department, where Authority officials learned more about the relationship between the water utility, water supply and pressure, and the Fire Department’s role in firefighting and public safety.

“I always thought it’d be advantageous for us to do something similar, because what we do as a water utility is more than we can share at one event,” says Carnell. “Our Citizen Academy afforded us an opportunity to increase public knowledge of all that we do, especially in terms of safety, treatment, and water quality testing, while also helping us recruit individuals who might want to pursue a career in the water profession as a result of this experience. This (Citizen Academy) is one of the best ways to inform the public of our role in the community.”  

The responses the HCWA received from anonymous exit interviews/questionnaires were positive, revealing the effectiveness of the Citizen Academy and increasing the likelihood that the Authority will replicate this event for local citizens next summer and into the future. In rating their experience, participants gave the Authority perfect 10’s almost across the board.

“The amount of work and heart it took to put on this (Citizen Academy) was amazing, and it provided a great opportunity to ask questions,” says one participant. “I liked ng what goes on behind the scenes,” says another. In addition, one participant notes, “it was very interactive, with lots of information. I have a greater appreciation for the work you all do!” Finally, “The (Citizen Academy) was very informative, and I encourage everyone to (participate in this event), so we all can save water.” 

For more information on the annual HCWA Citizens Academy, including photo galleries of the tours during this year’s event, please visit the HCWA website at And, for those interested in participating in next year’s Citizen Academy, contact organizer Lindsey Sanders at 


Captions for photos, Top to Bottom

The 2022 graduates of the inaugural HCWA Citizen Academy included (back row, left to right): Kendall Newson, Jacob Shea, Devlin Cleveland, Darryl Owens, and Del Baxter, in addition to (front row, left to right) Christopher Toussant, Christy Bivins, Citizens Academy Organizer and Instructor Lindsey Sanders, Francis Alomia, Sanna Owens, Sylvia Woods, and Cassie Carmichael. Not pictured: Vincent Pirone and Brian Anthony.

HCWA Operations Supervisor Barry Brand (far left) leads Citizen Academy participants on a tour of the award-winning Tussahaw Water Plant.

Citizen Academy participant Sanna Owens looks over controls of the drinking water treatment process at the HCWA Tussahaw Plant.

HCWA Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator Patrick Chesley (center) takes a sample of treated wastewater from the award-winning Walnut Creek Water Reclamation Facility to show Citizen Academy participants the results of the treatment process.

HCWA Cubihatcha Center Naturalist Jeff Scott (standing) leads a “floating classroom” boat tour of the Long Branch Reservoir for Citizen Academy participants.


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